By on February 7, 2011

I discovered the French sense of humor piloting the new Renault Megane 250 Cup through the Scottish Highlands. When I inadvertently induced a lift-off oversteer situation, I found myself staring at an oncoming tractor through a strategically placed EuroNCAP 5-star crash rating sticker on the windscreen. The team at Renaultsport might have made one of the finest hot hatches on the market today (again!), yet its nice to know that the engineers at Renault in Paris crafted a safety cage among the best on the continent to protect you when your talent runs out, whether you impact a tractor, hedge, or stray Italian.

The vehicles from Renaultsport are not your typical French hatch. The team takes the shell of a regular Renault Megane to their workshop in some wine infused countryside barn, and create monster three-doors of such brilliance, you’ll swear they sold their souls to the devil (again) in order to learn such unholy talents. The Megane 250 Cup leaves the premises much more than a body-molded and be-spoilered wannabe. What you receive from the dealer forecourt becomes one of those cars that only comes along once in great while, a car with soul, passion, and pure awesome.

The swoopy body work takes a great departure from the interesting angled front and flat rear window from the previous Megane. The front looks aggressive, especially with LED running lights, and the rear evokes the classic French boat-tail styling with a few aggressive cues limited to the central exhaust and straked spoiler. Pictures do not do the Megane justice, as seeing it in real life, where it has real presence, it looks just so…. right. Despite being so French. Look closer though, and you find real, functional design cues. That rear diffuser is real, and works well at high speed on the Nurburgring (I know from personal experience). The brake vents on the front wheel arches really do help keep the massive stoppers cool, and the rear spoiler works efficiently not for downforce, but to clean up the airflow for better high speed stability. Renaultsport added everything you need, but tacked on nothing you don’t.

Strapping yourself into the immensely comfortable Recaros (real race-prepped versions are also available, but not as long-trip worthy), you realize despite Renaultsport’s best intentions, the interior still comes straight from the line that produced the 5-door diesel family hatch. Durable, but well screwed together soft-touch plastics abound in a simple, but useful arrangement. The yellow tachometer gives you the only hint at the true nature of the Megane.

Renault must have hired some Citroen designers, as weirdness crept into the cabin in unusual places. For instance, the instrument panel needles do not light up at all, so in every situation, you cannot tell what speed you are doing, which necessitates turning on the headlights in order to get everything to legibly illuminate. The air-con resets itself to the default “on” position every time you restart the car. The handbrake and engine start button are placed on the opposite side of the car as the driver, a right-hand drive market only problem… but how hard would hit have been to move the buttons and lever? The stylish rear C-pillars, while awesome looking, create a serious blind spot as well, making you rely on your mirrors quite a bit more. However, in the 250 Cup, who cares if anything is behind you really?

You don’t buy a Megane 250 Cup for its interior cleverness or annoyance. You buy it to drive the living snot out of it, which this weekend, I did for 4 hours through some of the best driving roads of Scotland.

In this element of damp, twisty, bumpy roads the Megane came alive in a way I have very rarely experienced. The steering wheel communicated things to your hands as if psychic. You knew exactly what the front wheels were doing, where it was gripping, and which way the car wanted to go, yet put in a slight inputs, and the car responded with alacrity and precision superior to that of anything coming out of Wolfsburg. The brakes responded with gravitational force, yet were very linear and adjustable, once you get used to the sharp initial bite.

The exhaust, while a bit muted for this genre, popped and banged as if little demons were detonating IEDs in the muffler. The turbo mill whistled, and whooshed while the cylinders snapped and crackled in a display only a romance language speaking nation can produce. The firm suspension, while making me regret wearing loose boxer shorts in St. Andrews, became a thing of controlled beauty when landing after getting all four wheels in the air. The whole thing sounded and felt alive, as if you were taming a dragon spitting real flames out the back, and only your raw driving talent was keeping you, and your passengers from careening into the Cairghorns in a fiery death not seen since the time of William Wallace.

We jumped over crests, drifted through hairpin turns spraying snow and grit at Balmoral Castle in an attempt to annoy the Queen. We blew past Corsas full of Chavs in a turbo boost symphony of epic. The Megane rewarded, flattered, and kept us safe while making us driving gods of the highest order. The Megane costs less than a Focus RS, yet turns in quicker lap times, goes faster on real roads, and returns 27mpg in real time traffic. Five days after my return from Afghanistan, the Megane gave me heaven after seeing only hell.

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21 Comments on “Review: 2011 RenaultSport Megane 250 Cup...”

  • avatar

    I’m shocked and appalled!  A review of a car built by socialist cheese eating surrender monkeys here on Ayn Rand’s own TTAC?

  • avatar

    I love this… reviews on Euro cars we in the US otherwise would never get to hear about.  Hope it turns into a regular thing.  This car sounds fun… would have been nice to show more pics though, especially since I dont even know what a regular Megane looks like.  All we got were the same front end shot twice, one of the rear, and one of the author driving.

  • avatar

    Great… yet another hot hatch the US will never see.

  • avatar

    French built AND hotted up? How much time do you suppose one of these ‘on strike’ and involved in ongoing negotiations with your mechanic?

  • avatar

    I guess getting this thing to the US would be asking waaay too much :)
    Does anyone with experience with the vaunted Acura Integra Type R want to chime in about how these latest Euro hatches stack up? Not in pure pace, but rather in feel and fun on road?

  • avatar

    Capt…welcome back to civilization, and thanks for your time in the sandbox (mine is coming). 
    Growing up in Europe, I sure do miss these hatchback wonders…too bad most Americans still relate “hatch” to “cheap.”
    Thanks for taking us along for the ride…it must have been a hoot!

  • avatar

    Cars like this are the reason I would love to see French marques sold on our shores. I might not buy one (well, maybe the Citroen C6), but our roads would sure as hell look more interesting.

  • avatar

    Another bland wind tunnel design that looks like every other vehicle out there.

  • avatar

    The body reminds me of the new Astra in terms of its curves and swoops.
    Trying to decide if this or Hyundai’s faces are uglier…
    Otherwise, I’m sure it’s a blast to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      The linked photos show a 1-series droop along the bottom of the door, although appearing even more pronounced than in the German car.
      The inside rear view mirror of this car must be next to worthless, judging from the side profile — almost no visibility out of the back.

  • avatar

    Let me add my voice to those wanting to see cars like that here in the USA. The Megan sport has been the king of the hot hatches for some time now. It has pace over the VW GTi and class over the Focus and the Astra. I have seen one in the flesh and it is far better than in these photo’s and it was in Burned orange… I drooled.
    Something else that is not always mentioned is that the cars coming from Renault Sport are getting an impressive rep for quality. The French have cracked it with this one and deserve credit.

  • avatar

    This 3rd generation of Megane is a damn site prettier than the 2nd generation. It always annoyed me that everyone I knew thought that the Megane’s rear end was supremely ugly, yet Renault still tried to advertise its ‘ass’ as a selling point.
    One thing I would like to know is how unreliable is the current generation of Megane? The previous generation got a bit of a reputation for being more likely to fail its first MOT than any other car.

    • 0 avatar

      This Megane may not be as ugly as the old one in most people’s opinions, but it is even stupider looking. This is an econobox with 2+2 seating accomodations and no rear visibility. I’d rather drive a car that is merely ugly rather than one that looks idiotic. Mind you fools probably constitute Renault’s market. Who buys a car that is known to require repairs to remain roadworthy after a year?

  • avatar

    If you want to have fun, a hot hatch is the obvious answer.
    The French makes some the best hot hatches around.
    Speaking of French cars, you should try the new Peugeot RCZ and tell us if it´s any good.

  • avatar

    The simplicity on the front looks like they went to teir origins, kinda the Gordini Renault or the Dauphine.
    Here in Mexico we have a few Renault Sport versions, they imported very few but you can tell by they way they “take off” that is not a regular Renault.
    As for the RCZ, I have tried it and it is interesting to drive,(well just drove it on a test drive).
    The 1.6THP 200Hp PSA/BMW engine is more than enough for a coupé of that size and weight.
    However the price of $450K MXP is a little high for it’s equipment level.
    Best Regards

  • avatar

    “What you receive from the dealer forecourt becomes one of those cars that only comes along once in great while, a car with soul, passion, and pure awesome.”
    The grammartarian in me wants Mike to use the correct form of ‘awesome’ which would be ‘awesomeness.’ Just sayin’.
    Thanks, Mike, both for the great review and your service to our country.

  • avatar

    The French are certainly no strangers to hot hatches; the Peugeot 205 GTI was one of the best ever.  As for the Megane 250 Cup, slap a Nissan logo on it and sell it here!

  • avatar

    Anyone know where I can apply for a job in the French police?

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